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May 26, 2016

Guantanamo Periodic Review Boards

  • What are the Periodic Review Boards? President Barack Obama created the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) process through Executive Order 13567 on March 7, 2011. Congress then codified this order in section 1023 of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The order established an interagency review process to evaluate the continued detention of those Guantanamo detainees who are designated for indefinite detention (currently 42 detainees). The PRBs are meant “to determine whether certain individuals detained at [Guantanamo] represent a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States such that their continued detention is warranted.”
  • Who makes the decisions for the PRBs and how are decisions made? The board is made up of senior officials from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Staff, and the Office of Director of National Security. The board has access to all government information relevant to the detainee being reviewed, and considers this information alongside diplomatic considerations, security assurances, the detainee’s mental and physical health, and any other mitigating information. The board does not rely on any information obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
  • How many cases have been heard? The PRBs have held 45 hearings, for 41 detainees (four detainees have had two hearings). Decisions have been handed down for 29 detainees, with four detainees having received two decisions. Twelve detainees are awaiting a decision and four detainees have been given hearing dates. Though the executive order specifies that all initial reviews will commence “as soon as possible but no later than 1 year from the date of this order” (meaning March 2012), the hearings did not start until 2013.
  • What have been the outcomes of the PRBs so far? Of the 29 detainees who have received decisions, 22 have been cleared for transfer by the PRBs, and seven detainees have been recommended for continued indefinite detention. Nine of the 22 detainees cleared for transfer by the PRBs have been released from Guantanamo to their home countries or third countries. 
  • How many detainees are waiting for PRBs? Four detainees have been given hearing dates. Twenty-six additional detainees are slated for indefinite detention and are not waiting for PRB decisions (therefore eligible for PRBs), totaling 30 detainees.
  • When would the PRBs be completed, if continued at the current rate?  At the current rate, PRB hearings will not be completed for all eligible detainees until January 2018, which would pose a significant obstacle to President Obama’s stated goal of closing Guantanamo before leaving office. The Obama Administration has said that it intends to speed up the process, finishing all initial hearings by fall 2016.